Ketchum Town Square

Ketchum put tables and chairs back in Town Square this week after months in storage. 

As of 5:30 p.m. today, the South Central Public Health District reported no new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Blaine County, leaving local figures at 501 and 11, respectively. Other neighboring counties did note rises in case counts, however. Jerome county saw an increase of three confirmed cases, leaving its total at 138. Cassia County rose by six to a total of 55, Minidoka gained two to a total of 40, Gooding gained one, and Twin Falls rose from 338 to 343.

Numbers in Blaine County continue to hold steady as Idaho prepares to enter the third phase of reopening, as confirmed today by Gov. Brad Little. Here's more on that, plus other top news from Thursday, May 28.

• Today’s top news: Governor Brad Little announced in a press conference this afternoon revised plans to proceed with phase three of his reopening scheme. Bars will be allowed to open once again, non-essential travel may be resumed, and groups of up to 50 may congregate. New to phase three as of today, movie theaters will also be allowed to reopen for business.

In determining whether to move forward into Stage 3, state officials took into account several factors, state epidemiologist Christine Hahn said Thursday.

“We look at the number of cases, but we also need to look at the bigger picture,” Hahn told reporters. That bigger picture includes hospital capacity and whether there are at least 50 ventilators and 50 ICU beds available statewide, she explained. “We’re well over that right now,” Hahn said.

The third stage of reopening will enter effect on Saturday, May 30. Much of Little’s phased plan has moved forward at a more advanced pace than initially predicted.

“Due to the sacrifices Idahoans have made in the past two months and the care they have shown for their neighbors, I am hopeful that we passed the worst of COVID-19 in our state—if we all continue to routinely practice measures to prevent its spread,” Little said in the press conference.

• Friedman Memorial Airport announced its plans for the summer, including regular flights by three airlines to five major U.S. cities—Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.

Traffic has decreased significantly, however, and Fly Sun Valley Alliance Director Carol Waller said overall flight seat capacity could be down 40 to 50 percent this summer.

“We are cautiously hopeful, but realistic, about our upcoming summer season regarding air travel at SUN,” Waller said. “Recognizing there will likely be lower passenger demand due to COVID-19 concerns, we were able to maintain service to our five important flight markets by working with our airline partners on reductions to schedules and frequency.”

• Memorial Day weekend saw the first real increase in tourist traffic since lockdown began in March. Area hotels noted boosts in room bookings, and outfitters saw some record numbers. Most recreationalists in the Wood River Valley and up in Stanley avoided enclosed areas, however, greatly preferring the outdoors, where social distancing is easy. Campsites throughout the Sawtooth National Forest were fully booked.

Pick up a copy of tomorrow’s paper for our reporters’ full analysis of the holiday weekend.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, as of 5 p.m. today, reported a total of 2,769 confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus in the state, an increase of 38 from yesterday. A total of 82 people have died of the virus in the state.

For more information on COVID-19 in Blaine County, plus plenty of non-coronavirus news and stories, pick up a copy of tomorrow’s Idaho Mountain Express, or check mtexpress.com at any time.

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